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When is the best time to workout – before or after breakfast?

Posted October 24, 2019

Right in the morning, when you are still quite sleepy, is the best time to workout. Your brain needs time to prepare for harder tasks, but your body is ready to go. However, there is still one important question to answer – should you exercise before or after eating breakfast?

You will get the most benefit from your workout if you exercise before eating breakfast. Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aaron Burden, Wikimedia, Public Domain

Don’t even think about skipping breakfast. Your body needs that light big of nutrition just before you start working. However, you probably should eat after you workout. It will not help you lose more weight, but it will help you be a little healthier.

This is what scientists from the Universities of Bath and Birmingham found from their study, involving 30 men, who ever overweight and didn’t exercise enough. Participants were divided into three groups. Members of the first group exercised before eating, second group ate breakfast and then exercised, while the third group maintained the usual lifestyle. Of course, unsurprisingly, the third one did not improve at all. But men from the third group lost twice as much fat as people from the second group.

This actually makes sense. Once you eat, the insulin levels in your body go up. This tells your body that you have fuel – your tank is full and ready to go. If you don’t eat, your body needs to release the energy it stored before and so it starts burning more fat.

Interestingly, this doesn’t mean that people from the first group lost much more weight than people from the second group. In fact, order of exercising and breakfast did not lead to any differences for weight loss over six weeks. This also makes sense – eating after exercise balances out the burned fat with extra nutrition. However, this does not mean that there is no benefit in exercising early.

Scientists say that muscles of the men from the group who exercised before breakfast were more responsive to insulin compared to the group who exercised after breakfast. Scientists found that this morning routine led to reduced risks of diabetes and heart disease. Also, muscles of men from the first group showed greater increases in key proteins, especially those that transport glucose from the bloodstream to the muscles. Meanwhile in terms of insulin balance men from second and third groups faired equally.

Dr Gareth Wallis, co-author of the study, said: “This work suggests that performing exercise in the overnight-fasted state can increase the health benefits of exercise for individuals, without changing the intensity, duration or perception of their effort. We now need to explore the longer-term effects of this type of exercise and whether women benefit in the same way as men”.

Of course, the major limitation of this study is that it only involved men. Women have different metabolism, but hopefully results will be the same. Exercising before breakfast will bring you the biggest health boost, but it will also improve your serotonin levels, motivation and productivity.


Source: University of Birmingham

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